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GM seeks to lower expectations

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Link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050828/bs_nm/...HNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news) is seeking to lower expectations ahead of a meeting this week when it will update Wall Street analysts on its financial and business outlook.

The meeting is set for Tuesday at GM's headquarters in Detroit where a morning session will focus on product development and the company's redesigned cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. That will be followed by an afternoon briefing on financial issues at GM, which lost $2.5 billion in its North American auto business in the first half of the year.

Tom Kowaleski, chief spokesman for the world's largest automaker, said analysts should not expect any earnings forecasts from GM, which were suspended after it posted a stunning $1.1 billion loss in the first quarter.

He also said anyone following GM on a day-to-day basis was unlikely to hear anything new at the meeting on Tuesday.

Kowaleski spoke to reporters on Saturday at a fund-raising event for the Michigan Humane Society at the home of GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.

At the same event Gary Cowger, the former head of GM's North American operations who is now heading negotiations with the  United Auto Workers union, said he was unable to comment on when the talks might end.

GM, which expects its health-care costs to total nearly $6 billion this year, has been meeting with the UAW since April to try to slash some of the union medical benefits that it blames for hurting its ability to compete with Asian rivals.

The UAW, which has questioned the severity of GM's financial problems, said last month that it had hired a team of outside advisers led by New York-based investment bank Lazard Ltd (NYSE:LAZ - news) to examine the company's finances.

At a meeting with reporters last Friday, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said the review of GM's finances was still under way.

Cowger said in March that GM wanted its UAW workers to accept the same heath-care benefit cuts already taken by its white-collar workers.

But Gettelfinger and other UAW officials have rejected making such a concession out of hand.

GM's salaried workers pay about 27 percent of their health care bill while hourly workers pay about 7 percent, according to company data.

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